The search strategy for a systematic review needs to be as comprehensive as possible in order to capture all studies relevant to the review question.
The general process in developing a search strategy is:
A useful starting point can be to check the search strategies in published systematic reviews for examples of how searches are structured and assist in keyword development.
Your Liaison Librarian can provide you with assistance in developing search strategies.
Systematic reviews require a meticulous documentation of their search strategy to enable a possible replication of their search in the future and a clear assessment of their quality. Most databases allow for the search history to saved which provides an exact record of the search.
Search details which must be recorded are;
The numbers of search results are documented using the PRISMA Flow Diagram.
It is important to establish a method for managing the search results retrieved via your search strategy.
Reference management software such as EndNote are commonly used in systematic reviews for exporting all search results from final database searches so that duplicates can be removed and the records managed.
Covidence is also a widely used tool for managing systematic reviews (not a free tool).
Literature that is NOT published in traditional sources such as books and journals is referred to as “Grey Literature”.
Conference proceedings and theses are the most common types of Grey Literature in the academic context, but examples also include technical and research reports, government publications, policy papers, annual reports, fact sheets, maps, geological surveys and statistics.
See the following page for more information about Grey Literature.
Dissertations and Theses
Conference abstracts & proceedings
Australian sources of grey literature
International sources of grey literature
Hand searching is the manual examination of resources which are not indexed electronically, such as special issues of journals or conference proceedings.
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